Diagnosing, treating and dealing with rheumatic conditions like arthritis. That's the focus of tonight's Ask the Doctor segment.

Dr. Teresa Chavez is a rheumotologist with Saint Mary's Medical Group.

If you have any questions for her, call 858-2222 between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. tonight.

What is the role of a rheumatologist?

The role of a rheumatologist is to treat, diagnose and manage patients with arthritis or other rheumatic diseases affecting the joints, muscles, soft tissues, bones and other internal organs. Because rheumatic diseases such as lupus, tendinitis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are very complex, patients benefit from the care of a rheumatologist who is an expert in this field of medicine.

Who might benefit from seeing a rheumatologist?

Rheumatologists aim to improve a patient's quality of life by providing treatment options or medications, coping mechanisms, techniques for preventing disability or regaining function and more. I specialize in the nonsurgical management of musculoskeletal disorders and offer treatments including joint/soft tissue injections and infusion therapies.

What is a rheumatic disease?

Rheumatic diseases are painful conditions usually caused by inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints or muscles.

Some rheumatic diseases like osteoarthritis are the result of "wear and tear" to the joints. Other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, happen when the immune system becomes hyperactive; the immune system attacks the linings of joints, causing joint pain, swelling, and destruction. Almost any joint can be affected in rheumatic disease. There are more than 100 rheumatic diseases but we'll focus on some of the common types.

What type of patients should see a rheumatologist?

    If you have been diagnosed with arthritis or a rheumatic disease

    If you have joint pain and/or swelling

    If you have certain abnormal blood test results

    If you have trouble finding out what's wrong as rheumatologists treat many rare diseases that are difficult to diagnose.